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Cincinnati Might Spend $300 Million for a Shot at Hosting Six NCAA Tournament Games

The NCAA says Cincinnati will get to host first and second round games in 2022, but only if taxpayers fund massive upgrades to U.S. Bank Arena.

Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire 007/Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire/NewscomChris Williams/Icon Sportswire 007/Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire/NewscomThe first weekend of the annual NCAA college basketball tournament is priceless for fans of the sport. The smorgasbord of college hoops includes 48 games played over four days in eight different locations.

When the 2022 tournament comes around, Cincinnati, Ohio, is hoping to be part of the madness. The NCAA has named the city's U.S. Bank Arena as one of the eight hosts for the first two rounds of games that year, but the promise comes with some seriously expensive strings attached. To land just six games, the city will have to fund a $370 million renovation of the 43-year old stadium—and the arena's owners are asking taxpayers to cover $300 million of that total.

Voters in Cincinnati may get a chance to vote on the proposal this November. While city officials have not yet decided what to do with the arena, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the most likely funding mechanism would be an extension of an existing "temporary" sales tax that was supposed to expire in 2020. The quarter-cent sales tax is currently being used to fund renovations to Union Terminal, a former passenger rail station now being converted into a museum.

Backers of the proposal are touting a study from the University of Cincinnati claiming that a refurbished arena could be worth $670 million in future economic growth—but stadiums are generally bad public investments and those promises of economic development rarely pay off. The Enquirer says an upgraded facility could help Cincinnati attract political conventions (city leaders are apparently jealous that Cleveland got chosen over Cincy for the 2016 Republican National Convention), big ticket musical acts, and other high profile events.

Still, the best reason to be skeptical of Cincinnati's plans to blow $300 million on an upgraded basketball arena is the city's own history with stadium deals.

Hamilton County, which surrounds and encompasses Cincinnati, spent $350 million (Harvard economist Judith Grant Long estimates the final cost was closer to $550 million, including infrastructure work and cost overruns) in the mid-90s to build a new stadium for the Cincinnati Bengals of the National Football League. The infamously bad deal included a rider putting regional taxpayers on the hook for future upgrades to the stadium. As the Wall Street Journal reported in 2011, Hamilton County "agreed to pick up nearly all operating and capital improvement costs—and to foot the bill for high-tech bells and whistles that have yet to be invented, like a 'holographic replay machine.' No team had snared such concessions in addition to huge sums of public money."

To fund the stadium, Hamilton County took on more than $1 billion in debt. Paying off that debt now consumes about 15 percent of the county's operating budget ever year, according to the Journal, and local officials have been forced to cut funding for schools and the county sheriff's office in order to pay for it. There's plenty of competition, but Cincinnati's stadium deal has been widely labeled the worst such scheme in the country.

A key part of the bad deal, says Roger Noll, a professor of economics at Stanford University, is the "optimistic forecasting" that led local officials to believe the stadium would pay for itself in the long run. Sound familiar?

More recently, Cincinnati has been negotiating with the the modestly successful local professional soccer team, FC Cincinnati, for a new stadium. The team wants to jump from a minor league to Major League Soccer, but MLS has made it clear taxpayers must first agree to fund a new soccer-only stadium for FC Cincinnati, which currently shares facilities with the University of Cincinnati. The price tag: about $200 million, at least half of it coming from public sources, the Cincinnati Business Courier reports.

Letting taxpayers vote on whether to fund a $300 million upgrade to U.S. Bank Arena is the right thing to do—as opposed to just steaming ahead without getting consent from those who will have to pay the tab.

But, really, Cincinnati officials should look at their own history of getting swindled by sports franchises and organizations before even considering asking for the public's input. The NCAA tournament is one of the best sporting events of the year, but's not worth $300 million.

Photo Credit: Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire 007/Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire/Newscom

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  • Sevo||

    "There's plenty of competition, but Cincinnati's stadium deal has been widely labeled the worst such scheme in the country."

    Just wait till they get to the chili!

  • Echospinner||

    As a former Cincinnatian. I can testify that three Skyline cheese coneys and a 4-way (no beans) is heaven on earth.

  • StackOfCoins||

    No beans you say? RACIST.

  • Devastator||

    3 ways were always enough for me.

  • damikesc||

    Amazing what cities and voters would rather have than money.

    I love this whole "The rich are stealing from the poor" nonsense while they VOTE to allow the state to fund stadiums to help obscenely rich owners.

  • Devastator||

    LOL they vote to pay for stadiums that only rich people can afford to go to while they are stuck at home watching it on old CRTs with shitty antenna reception. lmfao.

  • El Oso||

    So who gives a fuck?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Discount hookers with coupon programs?

    Or maybe Hitler. The new rules confuse me.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    The article is not nearly so stupid as is the headline.

    Is reason.com unable to hire someone familiar with sensible publication standards?

  • Sevo||

    Oh, good. Our new lefty twit is a Lit Crit major!

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    I'm a Lit Crit major.

    You're a half-educated, stale-thinking bigot.

    We all have our crosses to bear.

    Except, speaking of crosses, some ostensible adults claim to believe fairy tales are true.

    How about you, sevo . . . superstitious as well as backward?

  • Rockabilly||

    Rev - you're the dunce.

    Now put on the dunce hat and sit in the corner.

  • Sevo||

    "You're a half-educated, stale-thinking bigot."

    By comparison to an ignorant asshole like you, that's a far step up.
    Fuck off, you pathetic excuse for humanity.

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    "Reverend" Kirkland is the same asswipe as Michael Hihn and David Nolan: Mary Stack.

  • juris imprudent||

    Funny bit Artie for someone with Rev. prefixed to his nom-de-net.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Congregation Of Exalted Reason.

    I would have guessed that a bunch of self-described libertarians frequenting a site called Reason.com would be more pious (and less superstitious) in this context.

  • Finrod||

    Fuck off, slaver.

  • Cyto||

    The article is not nearly so stupid as is the headline.

    "Cincinnati Might Spend $300 Million for a Shot at Hosting Six NCAA Tournament Games"

    Why would you characterize that headline in that way? It seems to be a pretty straightforward simplification of the overall subject. They are using the NCAA hosting bid to sell the bond issue to the city of Cincinnati. Is your complaint that the headline doesn't include all of the nuance and detail of the argument for public spending on the renovation of privately owned stadiums?

  • Consigliere of the Dark Ones||

  • Devastator||

    Why are you spamming comments section with something totally unrelated?

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    I don't even follow hockey.

  • Robespierre Josef Stalin Pot||

    All thes fucking morons in the Central and San Bernadine Valley that voted for Trump because they don't like San Francisco and Nancy Pelosi are getting the comeuppance they so richly deserve. Good luck getting White boys to collect your almonds.

    California Crops Rot as Immigration Crackdown Creates Farmworker Shortage

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    To make the jobs more attractive, farmers are offering salaries above minimum wage, along with paid time off and 401(k) plans, but even that's not proving enough.

    That is exactly the wrong approach. As a left-libertarian advocate of a Koch-endorsed immigration policy, the last thing I want to see is employers raising wages. Instead, wages should be kept as low as possible so that the only people willing to do these jobs are immigrants with no other realistic options.

  • DiegoF||

    OBL who do you have winning the men's this year?

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    The men's what? I thought the Olympics were over.

    Besides, as a non-binary individual, I don't approve when athletics are divided into only "men's" and "women's" as if there are no other options. Hopefully the next Democratic President who takes office in 2021 can do for non-binary athletic equality what Obama did for marriage equality.

  • Robespierre Josef Stalin Pot||

    You know what gives me hope. The comments board here at Reason. When I came on here back in 2012 and said that I didn't really care if immigrants came across the border I would get the following libertarian response

    HERBERG!!! SKREET!!! IF THEY WANT TO WORK HERE THEY SHOULD COME HERE LEGALLY!!! GRACK!!! YOU COMMIE LIBS JUST WANT TO SHIP UP MEXICANS SO THEY'LL VOTE FOR COMMIE DEMOCRATS

    Now, it seems like things might be a little more mixed. Thanks for the ray of light, OBL.

  • DiegoF||

    Wait, is Robes a parody account too? I can never keep track of these things.

  • Robespierre Josef Stalin Pot||

    Nope. Not parody. Just another libertarian who doesn't want the government rounding up people who come here for a better life. Along with abortion rights, Shouldn't this issue be an absolute no-brainer?

  • Sevo||

    Robespierre Josef Stalin Pot|3.17.18 @ 7:22PM|#
    "...Just another libertarian..."

    Just a blatant, bald-faced liar.

  • BigT||

    A no- brainer as you've demonstrated. Property rights are not compatible with open borders.

  • damikesc||

    "HOW DARE THEY...be expected to pay somebody market wages!?!"

  • Sevo||

    And fucking lefty imbeciles don't bother reading their links:

    "It's unclear exactly how widespread the labor shortage is for farmers throughout the country, which would have a bigger impact on prices consumers pay. Ultimately, drought and flooding have a more significant impact on farms. Low oil prices could also offset any impact of the worker shortage."

    Oh, and for imbeciles like you, this is a 'dog-bites-man' story; every harvest, some 'liberal' news agency finds a farmer or two who wishes labor costs were lower and publishes the same damn story.
    If Trump starved several million to death like your hero, would you really swoon for him?
    Fuck off, you tired piece of shit.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Not too many MAGA hats on people at the Starbucks ordering almond milk lattes.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    You can take my Almond Joy from my cold, dead, sticky hands.

  • BigT||

    Almond Joy the porn star!

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    The only evidence presented for the farmworker shortage is the say-so of the farmers who benefited from paying below market wages to illegal workers, and want those days back. And as they are tacitly admitting that they were hiring illegals, they should consider themselves lucky not to be in jail.

    To make the jobs more attractive, farmers are offering salaries above minimum wage

    Oh the horror! The Mexicans were only taking the jobs Americans won't do for minimum wage (or probably less).

  • Eidde||

    Depending on the story the media is telling, these farmers are either ruthless exploiters without credibility or responsible businesspeople giving objective testimony on the evil effects of Trumpism.

  • chemjeff||

    There is nothing magical about the minimum wage. It is just an arbitrary floor set on the price of labor.

    So what the farmers are evidently doing, is paying their labor below the minimum wage, which happens to be closer to the market price for this type of labor. Government is now artificially restricting the supply of said labor, causing the market wage to rise. Why exactly should we celebrate this?

    If it was a businessman paying an 18-year-old below minimum wage, as part of, say, an apprenticeship or trainee program, and the government wanted to forbid this employment contract, we would all rightfully scream how this was an abuse of government power. By the way, this sort of thing happens all the time - it's called an internship.

    If it was a businessman paying a retiree below minimum wage, because the elderly citizen just wants to keep busy and doesn't really need the money, and the government wanted to forbid this employment contract, we would all rightfully scream how this was an abuse of government power. By the way, this sort of thing happens all the time - it's called volunteering.

    But the moment that the affected person is a person lacking the correct government paper, people lose their minds and start praising the virtues of a minimum wage and screaming "exploitation". It is just nuts. Incidentally, there is, by definition, no exploitation as long as the employer and employee come to a free (non-coerced) agreement on the price of their labor.

  • Libertarian||

    I love those studies that show what money-makers public arenas and stadiums are. Because that $670 million in benefits, if the arena isn't built, would just be burned or buried by the taxpayers. They certainly wouldn't spend it on other forms of entertainment.

  • Jerryskids||

    A key part of the bad deal, says Roger Noll, a professor of economics at Stanford University, is the "optimistic forecasting" that led local officials to believe the stadium would pay for itself in the long run.

    At this point, anybody that believes these huge infrastructure programs like stadiums and convention centers and mass transit are going to "pay for themselves" is a moron. While it's true that many politicians are economic illiterates, I suspect that a lot of them are liars who know damn well these things won't pay for themselves but there's no opportunity for graft and corruption and campaign cash in not spending money and nobody names an unbuilt boondoggle the James T. Shitweasel Memorial Coliseum.

  • Sevo||

    "While it's true that many politicians are economic illiterates, I suspect that a lot of them are liars who know damn well these things won't pay for themselves but there's no opportunity for graft and corruption and campaign cash in not spending money and nobody names an unbuilt boondoggle the James T. Shitweasel Memorial Coliseum.

    Wife and I happened to witness the 'budgeting process' for moonbeam's choo choo; Willie Brown and Ron Diridon met over lunch at a restaurant near the Giant's ballpark and scribbled notes; the emphasis seemed to be on numbers they could put on the ballot without the voters vomiting.

  • Cyto||

    As a counterpoint I'd say that it is entirely possible that places like the Orlando convention center and the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta actually do provide outsized economic benefits.

    But those are probably rare exceptions. I seriously doubt that the Ogden Eccles Conference Center has a high multiple payoff for the area.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    At this point, anybody that believes these huge infrastructure programs like stadiums and convention centers and mass transit are going to "pay for themselves" is a moron.

    I dunno bout that. The studies that show stadiums are a bad deal never get much circulation in the MSM, probably because sporting events are the last remaining thing that people reliably watch TV for. So general people can be forgiven for not being aware of them.

  • StackOfCoins||

    We're never getting meaningful reform on any level as long as they keep funneling obscene amounts of tax revenue into stadiums and sports bullshit. It's perhaps the greatest example of cronyism at the state level, but there never seems to be pushback from taxpayers.

  • DiegoF||

    The people of Boston beat the Olympics; one of the most inspiring stories of the past few years. For the 2024s the people of every single bid city revolted ("overtaken by local politics" in the IOC's words) except Paris and L.A., so the IOC decided to award Paris the 2024 and L.A. the 2028 to avoid further humiliation. They're probably dreading 2032 at this point; by that point if they want anyone but banana republics it will probably have to look like poverty Olympics compared to all the sleek new throwaway infrastructure they build now. Also, San Diego told the Chargers to go fuck themselves, which was fucking delicious. Still a shit ton of bullshit going down all around, but maybe we've seen peak.

  • juris imprudent||

    Good lord, even Chicago told FIFA no thanks as part of the 2026 U.S. (and Canada and Mexico) World Cup bid.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    Oakland and St Louis said no to expensive stadiums too.

    Hard to say what things will be like geopolitically in 2032, but autocratic states like China and Russia have shown themselves willing to take the Olympics for the sake of prestige and propaganda, cost be damned. Of course LA may be part of China by 2028 and Paris part of Al-Andalus by 2024, so there's that.

  • Eidde||

  • Eidde||

  • Eidde||

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    7% of Americans think chocolate milk comes from brown cows

    Whenever a ridiculous result like this comes out, I wonder if the respondents were just pulling the pollsters' legs.

  • Eidde||

    "Hey, it's that same pollster who I told I was voting for Hillary. I hope my little joke didn't inconvenience them in any way!"

  • Eidde||

    Dude who thinks he's a chick wins a glorious civil-rights victory in the 6th Circuit

    A businessman who runs a funeral home has to let his employee, a dude, dress as a chick while on the job. Anything short of the would be sex discrimination. As for that silly Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that law doesn't really burden the boss's belief that dudes are dudes and not chicks. Plus, even if it did burden his religious practice, too bad, the public interest requires that the boss let dudes dress like chicks if they think they're chicks. So there.

  • Eidde||

    Love Wins - or more specifically, Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act beats RFRA - Title VII being the law which lets dudes who think they're chicks dress like chicks whether their bosses like it or not.

  • Eidde||

    Here is the historic decision in the case of Anthony - I mean Aimee Stephens, who sued his mean old boss for telling him to dress like a man while on the job, just because he was (in the court's words) "born biologically male."

    "...simply permitting Stephens to wear attire that reflects a conception of gender that is at odds with Rost's (the boss's) religious beliefs is not a substantial burden under RFRA....

    "Most circuits, including this one, have recognized that a party can sincerely believe that he is being coerced into engaging in conduct that violates his religious convictions without actually, as a matter of law, being so engaged....

    "...requiring the Funeral Home to comply with Title VII constitutes the least restrictive means of furthering the government's compelling interest in eradicating discrimination against Stephens on the basis of sex."

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    I suspect that the real reason is that old people, who studies have shown tend to die disproportionately often, don't want trannies presiding over their wakes and funerals and will take their business elsewhere.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    Actually Title VII just prohibits sex discrimination at work, and was never intended to cover most of what the courts have written into the margins (sexual harrassment, transgender bullshit, etc). Much like Title IX.

    It is odd to see people who assert that there is no such thing as gender basing their claims on a law that requires equal treatment of genders.

  • Eidde||

    Carry on, clingers, keep resisting science, fairness and justice, your kind is dying out like the stiffs at that funeral home.

    Sorry, I was channeling Artie there for a minute.

  • DiegoF||

    I hope shit like this doesn't go to SCOTUS until Kennedy retires. I will have to ask folks: Doesn't Trump's recent Dutartist jawboning about death penalty for drug dealers seem exceedingly unwise at the moment? Death penalty abolition, along with LBGT, is one of Kennedy's life obsessions; and if on the fence for retirement do a great deal to tip him away from that decision that he'd otherwise probably prefer to make while Republicans are in charge. It's not like Trump gets anything out of his yammering at this point.

  • The Last American Hero||

    For that price, they could just buy 10,000 seats each year to the NCAA in Indy or Detroit or Chicago and give them away via a free online lottery.

  • Paloma||

    Comes out to be about $500 from each family in the Cincinnati metro area. I hope at least the locals get free hot dogs or something.

  • Eidde||

    Sometimes it's hard to be a woman

    "Poor or affluent, ignorant or educated, beautiful or ugly, famous or unknown, married or single, working or unemployed, with children or without, rebellious or obedient, we are all deeply marked by a way of being in the world that, even when we claim it as ours, is poisoned at the root by millennia of male domination....

    "A young woman I'm very fond of said to me: it's always a problem with men, I've had to learn not to overdo. She meant that she had trained herself not to be too beautiful, too intelligent, too considerate, too independent, too generous, too aggressive, too nice. The "too" of a woman produces violent male reactions and, in addition, the enmity of other women, who every day are obliged to fight among themselves for the crumbs left by men."

  • Eidde||

    PS - I'm guessing the young woman's training was successful.

  • Eidde||

    "After watching a video of a lecture delivered by a Christian transgender woman, the professor opened the floor for discussion, offering women the opportunity to speak first. When no one raised her hand, Mr. Ingle shared his opinion. He said that he believes there are only two genders; he disputed the way in which transgender or nonbinary people identify themselves; and he stated that being forced by the professor to accept her perspective was a "misuse of intellectual power.""

    What happened next may surprise you!

  • Cyto||

    This is why the Humanities are not really academic disciplines. Everything offered up by the professor is opinion, as is everything offered up by the disruptive student. Yet the professor is treating her opinion as if it were a fundamental fact of nature.

    It is as if they are holding a class on Pizza, and the professor showed a video of Dan Akroyd extolling the virtues of Chicago deep dish. When asked for comment, a student declares that the New York slice is the only true pizza, and deep dish is not pizza at all. He is then banned for being disruptive and referred to the administration for discipline.

    Can you imagine such a discussion in a math class? Would anyone care to comment on this video that demonstrates that 7x3=21?" Even in areas where there might be disagreement due to personal beliefs, like evolutionary biology, the material being taught is backed by testable observations and can be defended on that basis.

    As to the case in question - the student should demand a full refund and an apology and be done with it. He'll never pass this woman's course at this point, so cut your losses and move on.

    BTW, a smarter professor could have used this moment as an opportunity to use the Socratic method to teach the difference between sex, gender and gender identity. "Does anyone know why...?"

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Even in areas where there might be disagreement due to personal beliefs, like evolutionary biology,

    Your flattery of childish superstition seems incongruent with your ostensible point about certain academic disciplines being less than rigorous.

    No reasonable person or competent adults rejects evolution for a fairy tale, or believes Earth is a few thousand years old consequent to a work of fiction. You should know this.

  • Finrod||

    Fuck off, idiot leftist slaver.

  • Cyto||

    "at least the voters get to decide...."

    I'll just point out the case of the Miami Marlin's stadium deal. it was put to the test with voters. Who soundly rejected the deal.

    So the Mayor went ahead and signed the deal anyway, obligating the taxpayers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for a new stadium (so they could keep the Marlins in town). Shortly thereafter the Marlins franchise was sold at a profit of hundreds of millions of dollars..... largely on the added value of the new stadium.

    But OK. Keep telling yourself that these deals are "to increase economic growth" and that the voters will get a say. I'm sure the former Mayor and his family are being well taken care of.

  • Finrod||

    At least Miami got to vote. Cobb County got stuck with the Braves without even a polite request.

  • Johnny Hit n Run Paulene||

    "The Enquirer says an upgraded facility could help Cincinnati attract political conventions (city leaders are apparently jealous that Cleveland got chosen over Cincy for the 2016 Republican National Convention), big ticket musical acts, and other high profile events."

    Maybe they could attract The Who to come back for another general admissions show. What could go wrong?

  • Devastator||

    If it was worth 300 million then they could make that much in profit. Since they obviously can't the voters should definitely get their council people to shoot this bullshit down quick.

  • james roe||

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